Millions of Muslims in Saudi Arabia await holiest night
Millions of Muslims are gathering this week in Saudi Arabia to mark one of the holiest times of the year, praying for forgiveness as well as succour at a time of rising tensions in the region.
The Laylat al-Qadr, or Night of Destiny, marks the moment when according to Muslim belief the Prophet Muhammad first received from God, through the angel Gabriel, the first verses of what would become Islam's holy book, the Quran.
It is an auspicious occasion when Muslims believe the gates of heaven are open and prayers have the best chance of being heard.
The spiritual climax of the month of Ramadan expected to fall on Saturday this year.
More than 3.5 million people have already gathered in the Great Mosque of Mecca and around 2 million in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina in anticipation to observe the event.
"God has kept the exact date of Laylat al-Qadr a mystery, however, the prophet gave us a few clues," Saudi professor of Islamic law Aqeel al-Aqeel told The New Arab.
"We know that it takes place during the last ten days of the month of Ramadan on one of the odd-numbered days mostly likely on the 27th or 29th. According to the Quran praying on this night is worth more than 1,000 months of normal prayer."
|Laylat al-Qadr prayers are a long event, with recitals lasting until after suhur, the last meal before fasting resumes.|
|The exact date of Laylat al-Qadr is debated [Getty]|
"Many people have incorrect ideas about this night, including that giving charity on Laylat al-Qadr reaps greater rewards," he added.
Sociologist Mohammad al-Ateeqi said that Saudi customs for the occasion have begun to change.
"Saudis have traditionally prayed, read the Quran and made wishes to God on Laylat al-Qadr," Ateeqi said.
"This has changed recently, as now the shops are packed on the last nights of Ramadan and many people prefer to hang out and watch TV. This is a result of the proliferation of technology and laziness in modern society."
"People are no longer happy to receive one article of clothing for Eid, their lives now revolve around their appearance and luxury," he added.
Laylat al-Qadr prayers are a long event, with recitals lasting until after suhur, the last meal before fasting resumes.
Ateeqi added that some Muslims participate in a spiritual retreat known as itikaf, where they spend last ten days of Ramadan in the mosque reading the Quran and praying.